Last Updated May 17, 2011 5:26 PM EDT
When manufacturers and retailers make mistakes or end up with less-than-perfect products, they can't sell them at full price. As a result, consumers stand to win. From an overrun in supply to damaged labels and surface bruises, product imperfections often lead to big discounts. And as long as it tastes the same or works just as good, what's a small blemish here and there? Just make sure you love it -- since imperfect products are usually placed on final sale.
Here's a round-up of 6 product categories offering "imperfect" discounts. If you have an experience or tip you'd like to share, please sign in and leave a comment below.
Appliances Household appliances with surface bruises are often sold for 30 to 40% less than retail price. From national retailers like Sears Outlet to mom & pop appliance stores like Singers Appliance Co. in Philadelphia, you can often find a special section (on the store floor or online, or both) for dinged blenders, microwaves, dishwashers and more. One cautionary note: Make sure the product still comes with a manufacturer's warranty. It may be a bit banged up, but you should still be entitled to a replacement or repair if the appliance mechanically breaks down in a few months.
Wine A common industrial accident in the wine world is when bottles break and nearby bottles get their labels stained. What's a wine distributor to do? That's where AccidentalWine.com steps in. The Web site buys blemished-label wines at steep discounts and passes on the savings to consumers. Accidental Wine boasts savings of up to 40% on wine bottles. Other terms vintners use for bad label wines include "tainted labels" or "damaged labels." Ask you local wine seller if he has any in stock.
Chocolate & Candy
I've written about chocolate "seconds" before: Some local chocolate stores and chocolatiers sell these less-than-perfect concoctions for up to 50% less. Also, Jelly Belly, the famous maker of colorful jelly beans sells Jelly Belly Flops - "irregular jelly beans in weird shapes, sizes and colors" - at its outlet stores and online for less than half-price. A 2-pound bag of Jelly Belly Flops, for example, sells for $9 vs. $22 for a perfect bag. Personally, I think these are even more fun to eat! A square jelly bean? Yes, please!
Floor and showroom samples of coffee tables, couches and desks suffer a fair amount of wear and tear over time - and, as a result, give shoppers a great way to haggle down prices (if they haven't already been priced down). I bought a floor-sample leather coffee table from Pottery Barn two years ago for 40% less than its original price. It has a slight scratch, but I can live with it.
Groceries & Packaged Foods
Local "salvage" or "discount" grocers sell imperfectly packaged goods and groceries that traditional supermarkets won't accept from manufacturers. You can check out a directory of local discount grocers at ExtremeBargains.net.
Dents For Cents, for example, is a dented-can grocery store in South Bend, Illinois, that only sells non-perishables. At Grocery Outlet, which operates in six states along the West Coast, 75% of products are sourced from manufacturers needing to unload overrun products - like Shrek-themed cereal (after the movie went to DVD). National discount grocers - like Save-A-Lot and Aldi - also carry discontinued and overrun grocery products for up to 40% less. Just make sure to read every product's "Use by" or expiration date, since some may have gone over.
With families concerned about rising food prices, discount grocers are rapidly growing. Save-A-Lot opened 142 stores in its last fiscal year- a record for the company. Over the next five years it plans to double its store count to 2,400.
Books Local bookstores may have a section for books damaged due to shipping or shelf wear. For example, at the Westminster Bookstore in Glenside, Pa., there's a section called "imperfect books," whose contents may have folded pages, bent edges, or other physical wear and tear. The books are still in readable condition with proper binding and sell for 20% to 25% less.
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv, and on Twitter.
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